As I've not been endowed with Pirsig's e-mail address I thought to
write this open letter I hope to pertain to all those who are present.
I remember how Pirsig complained during the Baggini interview about
Baggini not asking him about the Metaphysics of Quality, so I thought
maybe somebody should ask something.
In order to approach the topic of my inquiry, let's consider the
following ZAMM quote. This quote defines subjectivity and objectivity
and the uses of these concepts. Emphasis by me.
"Time to get on with the Chautauqua and the second wave of
crystallization, the metaphysical one. This was brought about in
response to Phædrus' wild meanderings about Quality when the English
faculty at Bozeman, informed of their squareness, presented him with a
reasonable question: ``Does this undefined `quality' of yours exist in
the things we observe?'' they asked. ``Or is it subjective, existing
only in the observer?'' It was a simple, normal enough question, and
there was no hurry for an answer. Hah. There was no need for hurry. It
was a finisher-offer, a knockdown question, a haymaker, a
Saturday-night special...the kind you don't recover from. Because if
Quality exists in the object, then you must explain just why
scientific *instruments* are unable to detect it. You must suggest
*instruments* that will detect it, or live with the explanation that
instruments don't detect it because your whole Quality concept, to put
it politely, is a large pile of nonsense. On the other hand, if
Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this
Quality that you make so much of is just a fancy name for whatever you
In LILA Pirsig presents the idea that social quality and intellectual
quality are subjective. If so, how can they be detected by scientific
We all probably can agree that BDI (Beck Depression Inventory) is an
instrument. Yet it is a mere questionnaire - a slip of paper, on which
the test subject selects certain answers and, according to these
answers, the psychiatrist determines how depressed the subject is. But
even though BDI is clearly an instrument, perhaps depression is
biological. And if depression is biological it is objective - not
subjective - according to the SODV stance that Pirsig already presents
If social and intellectual quality are subjective, as Pirsig claims in
LILA and SODV, according to the above ZAMM quote instruments should be
unable to detect them. Well, are instruments unable to detect them?
Here's the abstract of a scientific paper at
"This paper reviews some recent research on the mental health of the
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis of Canada. We summarize evidence for
the social origins of mental health problems and illustrate the
ongoing responses of individuals and communities to the legacy of
colonization. Cultural discontinuity and oppression have been linked
to high rates of depression, alcoholism, suicide, and violence in many
communities, with the greatest impact on youth. Despite these
challenges, many communities have done well, and research is needed to
identify the factors that promote wellness. Cultural psychiatry can
contribute to rethinking mental health services and health promotion
for indigenous populations and communities."
This is definitely about social matters, not just biological matters.
But is this science? Scientific truth is objective. If social and
intellectual matters are subjective, this paper is not science. Yet it
has passed peer-review and obviously appears to be science. Obviously
some kind of *instruments* have been used in the production of this
scientific result. According to the LILA/SODV stance this should be
impossible because social and intellectual patterns are subjective.
So, what does it mean that social and intellectual values are
subjective instead of objective? If they can be objectively detected,
they are necessarily objective. But in the SODV paper Pirsig doesn't
even present an overlap between the subjective and the objective. They
are portrayed as strictly different. Why?
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